Good ways to go about learning Yiddish

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  • #604745

    aurora77
    Participant

    Hello Coffee Room,

    I am interested in hearing about your personal experiences here! I presently know just a few phrases, and I would like to begin to at least understand more for reading and listening purposes. Did anyone here not grow up with Yiddish but rather learn it later through some concerted effort? What worked best for you? Your suggestions are always helpful, so many thank yous as always!

    #894764

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Dont waste you time with Yiddish, If you want to learn a jewish language learn Hebrew.

    Only Charedi Jews speak Yiddish anymore , most jews do not speak it. Even my mother who spoke Yiddish first hasnt spoken it in years (Her family was from Europe and they spoke Yiddish in the House)

    #894765

    shein
    Member

    Moving to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York will probably do the trick fastest.

    Another quick way to do it, is to marry a Yiddish speaking husband. 🙂

    #894766

    RebRY
    Member

    I learned Yiddish and did not grow up with it. I think the only way is to be around people who speak it and hear it spoken. You can use grammar books to help with grammar.

    #894767

    RebRY
    Member

    It is very important that you learn Hebrew ( Lashon Kodesh, not modern Hebrew (Ivrit) what they speak in the “State of Israel” which is not a Jewish language and has no Holiness) to be able to understand prayers and learning Torah.

    #894768

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    I was in Paris and I met someone in a store who did not speak English and I did not speak French. Turns out we both spoke Hebrew and had a nice conversation. (He was likely Sephardic as most jews in France are nowdays)

    I was in Barcelona and someone came up to me and wanted information about the park. They did not speak English or Spanish and I could not help them. I then heard them speak Hebrew and I was able to answer all their questions and they had a real smile on their face and almost felt at home.

    #894769

    MorahRach
    Member

    I am not sure if Yiddish is included but I have heard great things about rosseta stone.

    #894770

    yeshivaman11
    Member

    there is a sefer (i forgot the name) which teaches the basics of yiddish, and very easy to learn, its a small sefer, but is wide, kind of like a sideways notepad, and is purple and pink on the front, which helps a lot for basic yiddish, but to be fluent, buy a sefer called likutei sichos, and sit and learn the sefer with a chavrusa who knows yiddish, and words which you dont know, right the taitch above the word.

    I did this, and after a year i was fluent.

    #894771

    147
    Participant

    Don’t even waste a second of your precious time on Yiddish.

    Either learn Ivrith which is the language in which our Holy Torah as well as Nach are written in, &/or learn Gemorro. Far better use of your good talents.

    #894772

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Yiddish today is not real Yiddish, Its Yinglish

    #894773

    shlishi
    Member

    Most of the top Torah shiurim in most Litvish Yeshivos are given in Yiddish. It is an important language for a Torah scholar to know.

    #894774

    Englishman
    Member

    Yiddish is used to speak with each other by Yidden from different parts of the world who have different local languages.

    Yiddish is the international language of the Jew.

    #894775

    vochindik
    Member

    I travel around the world and am glad to know Yiddish. It is often the only way I am able to communicate with my fellow Jew. (Whether Yekke, Litvak, Chosid, Oberlander, etc.)

    #894776

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Yiddish is NOT the international Language of the Jew. It is Germanic and originally only spoken by Ashkenazic Jews . It was not spoke by Sephardim and most Sephardic Gedolim today like Rav Harari speak Hebrew

    #894777

    Hey, folks, you’re going OT. The OP asked *how* to learn Yiddish, not *whether* to learn Yiddish.


    I agree with RebRY – you need to be around people who speak it, and speak it yourself. That’s how I did it. I found someone to speak Yiddish with me – I would visit them once a week and speak Yiddish (I really broke my teeth).

    You may find it easier to speak with children. Their speech is simpler and I found myself less self-concious than with an adult.

    #894778

    I think ideally one should first learn proper German, then learn Yiddish. That would prevent the deterioration of Yiddish from continuing.

    #894779

    Joseph613
    Member

    First, I’d like to also point out how the hatred is so clear. Someone asks how to speak a language that was spoken by all of Ashkenazic Jewry and their Torah leaders for literally hundreds of years and the first post you see is of one who discourages the person from learning Yiddish.

    As a 40 year old man, I have encountered quite a bit of this phenomenon. The pro secular Hebrew crowd bashing the traditional or contemporary Yiddish language speakers. I challenge anyone to refute the fact that there are “hundreds of thousands” of Yiddish speakers throughout the world. What kind of angry and biased Jewish people seek to uproot this holy language. The Chassam Sofer called it holy and every Chassidishe and Litvishe gadol spoke it exclusively. As a matter of fact, in Germany Jews spoke German and Yiddish. When Moshiach comes, he will set the record straight as to which language has more sanctity to it. Zionist Hebrew or Chareidi Yiddish.

    #894780

    akuperma
    Participant

    The formal classes (such as YIVO’s) are of limited value since the course materials were designed by secular Jews and reflect the Yiddish spoken among the frei Jews 100 years ago. It is for all purposes a dead dialect. Sometimes the changes are comical (if you remember Sen. D’Amato, he used a Yiddish phrase he had picked up to try to win frum votes – the phrase was a reasonable insult from the Lower East Side, but a gross obscenity in frum Yiddish – which is how be became a lobbyist instead of a senator).

    If you know Hebrew, you already know at least a third of the Yiddish word stock. If you know German, you probably know another 50% (English, is related to Germany, so knowing English gives you 10% of the vocabulary. Modern (meaning frum) Yiddish is a lot more like English than it was 150 years ago in terms of grammar.

    There are a lot of children’s books produced by the frum Yiddish communities that reflect the 21st century Yiddish that is still a living language, and using them to learn the language should be fun. Whle there isn’t much online, there are analog audio materials (CDs) produced by and for the frum Yiddish speakers, or you can visit a place where Yiddish is spoken (places in Brooklyn, Antwerp, places in Eretz Yisrael).

    #894782

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    I dont think the OP understands that for many Hebrew is the jewish Language of today and not Yiddish.

    To the OP

    For the most part the debate between Yiddish and Hebrew is about Zionism (not entirly, but a great deal)

    Those who are more zionistic will lean more and more towards Hebrew and those who are less zionistic and anti-zionsitic will lean towards Yiddish

    Also Yiddish is an Ashkenazic Language spoken by Jewish from Eastern Europe. Sephardic Jews , Jews from elsewhere did have their own language called Ladino (A Spanish Hebrew hybrid) but that has been mostly lost and they have adpoted Hebrew as their language

    #894783

    iced
    Member

    Send your children to a Yiddish Yeshiva and before you know it you’ll be picking it up as well.

    #894784

    nishtdayngesheft
    Participant

    Zdad,

    You made an assumption which confirms that you are only the first third.

    #894785

    Curiosity
    Participant

    If you want to learn Torah, learn Hebrew. If you want to learn to communicate with old Europeans, or isolated Chassidish communities, learn Yiddish. Regardless of whether modern day Hebrew has holiness to it or not, it’s the most useful language to know for learning Torah.

    #894786

    iced
    Member

    No, Curiosity. Loshon Kodesh is NOT Modern Hebrew. And there are hundreds of thousands of frum Yiddish speaking Yidden in the U.S., Eretz Yisroel and Europe. And that is just of who speak Yiddish as a first language. There are many many more who speak Yiddish as a second language.

    #894787

    Curiosity
    Participant

    Okay iced. You can keep trying to convince me that my fluent Hebrew didn’t help me in Yeshiva at all, but that won’t change the reality that all the American kids in the beis midrash always came to me to translate the hard words for them. You obviously don’t know Hebrew well enough to discuss it with any credibility.

    Also, just because people understand Yiddish doesn’t mean that that’s the only language they understand. There are not many people who speak ONLY Yiddish, and the ones who do usually live in insulated communities, as I said. Usually, even those people will understand some Hebrew, if you speak slowly enough for them.

    #894788

    147
    Participant

    I hope OP is not oblivious to the phenomenon that Artscroll which is anything but Zionist, translates numerous Seforim into English and Ivrit, and few into French, Spanish & Russian, but None into Yiddish.

    Artscroll has numerous Choshuv Rabbonim on their committees, and are clearly in tune with the reality, that Yiddish is an obsolete archaic language, whereas Ivrit is a pulsating & alive language, and is the way to disseminate words & knowledge of our Wonderful & Holy Scriptures.

    #894789

    iced
    Member

    147: That’s because Artscroll translates Shas into whatever language some rich benefactor generously pays them too. Nevertheless, you can rest assured much much more frum Torah-learning Yidden understand Yiddish than French, Ivrit, Russian.

    Curiosity: Most frum people who understand Ivrit, speak another language too (Yiddish, English, etc.)

    #894790

    RebRY
    Member

    Rav Avigdor Miller ZT”L writes in one of his English sefarim that ivrit has no kedusha and is no different then speaking any other goyish sprach. He used to speak in Yiddish at home

    #894791

    Chortkov
    Participant

    I am a good Yekke and I never knew Yiddish when i was at home. Even in a high school were most of the rebbes were chassidish [although we weren’t], i only picked up very little yiddish. I knew less than the basics when i came to yeshivah, where all the shiurim are given in yiddish.

    Because the shiurim are on the gemoro, and magid shiur uses the loshon gemoro in most sentences, there is very little that i need to actually know. Then an important ???? he will say in English anyway because it is easier to be ????? in English.

    By now i can understand almost any Gemoro Shiur in Yiddish. But i still can’t speak a word of it!

    #894792

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    I dont think The Gadol Hador Rav Ovadia Yosef speaks anything but hebrew (He might speak and understand yiddish, but he doesnt speak it in publc)

    #894793

    vochindik
    Member

    Almost all the Gedolim speak Yiddish, including:

    Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman

    Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashev

    Ponevezh Roshei Yeshiva

    Gerrer Rebbe

    Belzer Rebbe

    Klausenberger Rebbe

    Rav Shmuel Auerbach

    Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman

    Rav Nissim Karelitz

    Rav Yitzchok Sheiner

    Rav Yitzchak Zilberstien

    etc etc

    #894795

    Curiosity
    Participant

    Vochindik, the Ashkenazic gedolim speak Yiddish. That’s because they grew up in Europe. It will likely be completely obsolete by the time next generation’s gedolim are here. It’s impractical to give a shiur or try to communicate with a nation that doesn’t understand what you are saying. Try not to forget that slightly over half of klal Yisrael isn’t Ashkenazic.

    #894796

    vochindik
    Member

    Curiosity, you’re wrong. All the younger Gedolim, who were NOT born in Europe also speak Yiddish. As do their children. And all the great Litvish Yeshivos in EY teach in Yiddish. (I don’t have to mention the Chasidish.)

    Also, the Ashkenaz / Sephard worldwide demographic breakdown is about 80% Ashkenaz / 20% Sephardic. In Israel it is only slightly less and you can check this with the Israeli Buerea of Statistics. Outside Israel it is even a much larger proportion of Ashkenaz. Before WWII it was even much greater difference. In 1931, 92% of Jews were Ashkenazic.

    #894797

    Curiosity
    Participant

    Actually, the census says data I saw says 51% of Jews in Israel are non-Ashkenaz.

    #894798

    vochindik
    Member

    There are 5.8 million Jews in Israel according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Of those 3 million are Ashkenazim and 1.8 million are Sephardim/Mizrachim according to government statistics.

    And a majority of Sephardim live in Israel. The overwhelmingly vast vast majority of Jews outside Israel are Ashkenazim. The only other countries with notable Sephardic populations are France with 300,000 Sephardim and the U.S. with 200,000. After that it is 50k in Argentina and 20k in Turkey. There is between 9-11.2 million worldwide Ashkenazim, with 5-6 million in the US alone.

    #894799

    Curiosity
    Participant

    You’re definitely right about the global population in that the Ashkenazim are the more numerous, but I keep seeing conflicting data about Israel. But this is all besides the point anyway. The point is that there is a huge chunk of klal Yisrael that doesn’t understand Yiddish. There is a reason sforim are almost always published in Hebrew – because that’s what Jews understand. Writing a sefer in Yiddish would severely limit the number of Jewish readers who can read it. It’s undeniable that anybody studying Torah has a tremendous advantage if they are raised to be fluent in Hebrew as opposed to Yiddish.

    #894800

    vochindik
    Member

    Check the website of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. The national data is all there.

    And I still say you’re wrong. If you were correct all the chiloni Hebrew speakers should have a leg up in learning Torah. They don’t. In fact, the native Yiddish speakers have a leg up in the higher level Torah learning, as Yiddish is the language the higher level shiurim are given in Litvish Yeshivos. (In Chasidish Yeshivos, it is all Yiddish.)

    #894801

    yehudayona
    Participant

    While the majority of Jews worldwide may be Ashkenazim, the majority of Ashkenazim aren’t frum, and I suspect the number of non-frum Yiddish speakers is rapidly declining. That means that most Jews don’t know Yiddish. OTOH, neither do they know Hebrew.

    Vochindik, a major reason Yiddish speakers “have a leg up in learning Torah” over chiloni Hebrew speakers has nothing to do with language. If you have background knowledge, learning is easier than if you don’t.

    #894802

    Curiosity
    Participant

    Vochindim, you can’t compare frum Yiddish speakers to chiloni Hebrew speakers. That’s ridiculous. Obviously someone who doesn’t care to learn Torah will not magically know Torah. Also, there are many “higher level shiurim” that are NOT given in Yiddish. Many are switching to English and Hebrew, which is the appropriate thing to do because that’s what the next generation of talmidim understand.

    #894803

    Mammele
    Participant

    Aside from the fact that we “hijacked” Aurora’s thread, which didn’t involve higher Gemara learning, just most likely being comfortable with her language skills around frum Jews, somebody recently pointed out to me why we don’t have Artscroll Yiddish gemaras etc.

    Yiddish, as it is largely spoken today is for better or worse the original Yiddish and L”H plus a very big mish-mash of English (or the language of the host country). Most native Yiddish speakers are FFB and wouldn’t understand “atypical” Yiddish words. At the same time because they grew up religious they are familiar with the concepts discussed and understand very many L”H and Aramaic words.

    So translating into a proper Yiddish would mean making things more difficult to a certain extent than sticking to L”H. And obviously you can’t write a sefer in Yinglish… That’s not to say there aren’t proper Yiddish speakers, it’s just not the majority in the US, especially of the younger generation we are trying teach EVEN WHEN YIDDISH IS THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE.

    We do however have chumashim etc. with Yiddish teitch, but once somebody had mastered the basics their L”H proficiency has evolved and their simply is no need for a Yiddish translation.

    #894804

    RebRY
    Member

    There are some mesechtos that are translated into Yiddish I think Megila, Sikah and a few others. I only seen them being used by a bucher with a shvacher kop. Chasidim generally use the Mesivta or blue art scroll gemurahs because they know LK well.

    #894805

    aurora77
    Participant

    Hello Coffee Room,

    I see I missed a lot while I was in Atlantic City for the day.

    There is a great deal of discussion here about issues of contention that I had no intention of raising.

    For everyone’s reference, I am new to the Coffee Room, looking to become Jewish after discovering Ashkenazic Jewish roots on my mother’s German side of the family. You can find out more about me on my thread from this past week that concerns this exact same subject matter. I will repeat some salient facts below:

    I am already 35 and have been a practicing child advocate attorney for ten years;

    I am a single woman with no children, and no one else in my family is interested in taking this journey with me;

    The relatives who would have been able to tell me about my Jewish roots, which wound through Germany, Brazil, and then the US, have been deceased for years.

    I apologize for the repeats above that many of you got on my first thread already.

    I do not consider my learning Hebrew and Yiddish to be an either-or prospect. I will be learning both. They both are very meaningful to me and I would not choose one over the other. I want to learn Yiddish in addition to Hebrew because I want to feel that extra cultural connection to my dear late Mom Mom, who took that journey around the world between the World Wars to keep our family alive.

    Perhaps learning two new languages sounds like it will be daunting for a newbie like me, and it is! However, I have always loved languages. I grew up with English as my first but learned a little bit of German and Yiddish from my mother’s side of the family. Later I studied Latin and became conversant in French while majoring in English, and when I trained classically in piano and voice, I learned to sing in Italian, French, and German.

    If you really want to hear a tall order, you should know that I would very much like to eventually add another Jewish language to my knowledge base, even if the language is not spoken much or even at all anymore! I find Djudezmo and Judeo-Persian to be two tantalizing possibilities of many to consider in this regard.

    All of that being said, you can pretty much assume that my knowledge base regarding resources to best learn Hebrew and Yiddish is extremely minimal. To answer 147’s question as to whether I am oblivious to the fact that Art Scroll does not translate certain texts into Yiddish, I repeat that I am just scratching the surface in my exploration — so yes, I am indeed oblivious at present but am trying very hard to rectify that.

    To those who responded to my original post with suggestions on how to best go about learning Yiddish, I thank you for your suggestions and will reply more individually shortly.

    For reply commentators on other topics, please rest assured that you need not convince me of the merits of any aspect of the enormously diverse Jewish cultural experience — I was already persuaded before I came to the Coffee Room. I sought you out not only because of my family connection but because I love all the beautiful similarities and differences that tie this people together. All of these aspects are priceless to me; I could never rank them.

    It would be boring if we were all exactly the same. I have so much to learn from all of you.

    I want to convey to all of you that I find all the ways and languages which the Jewish people have used to communicate with G-d and each other to be just as holy and beautiful. To me, it is awe-inspiring how we have found so many different ways to praise this one G-d, and I love to find the similarities across languages that are manifested in regional variations. A few years ago, I read a book by Dovid Katz called Words on Fire: the Unfinished Story of Yiddish, which really ignited my interest in learning all I could about as many vernaculars as possible.

    There have been innumerable Jewish ways to praise G-d throughout time and space. As I learn more of the history of each way, what began as a solo melody line transforms into a rich symphony, all parts equally beautiful, holy, and worthy. I feel a calling to explore the Composer’s full score so I can understand the voice given to each instrument.

    #894806

    Mammele
    Participant

    Aurora, all I can say is WOW! Your determination, ambition and vivid expression have left me speechless. You go girl! (sorry, I’m not quite the poet…)

    #894807

    aurora77
    Participant

    Hello Mammele,

    Thank you — once again, you are a kind, encouraging, welcoming voice reaching out to me! That is priceless to me on this journey 🙂 And you express yourself just beautifully!

    #894808

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Aurora,

    If you really want to learn Yiddish, While others might not like it, The best places to learn it are the YIVO institute (on 16th St in Manhattan) and the Folksbien which is a organization dedicated to the Yiddish theater and culture. I do belive that the YIVO gives yiddish language courses, but otherwise some universites in the NYC area also give them.

    These organizations are not really interested in the religious aspect of Yiddish, just in the preservation of the language and culture.But I have heard people from the Folksbien speak yiddish with the proper accent exactly as my grandmothers spoke it.

    You probably would be more interested in reading the works of Shalom Alechim (Tevye the Milkman (Fiddler on the Roof)) , Issacs Bashevets Singer (Yentel). Perhaps you could read Tevye the Milkman in both Yiddish and English and get a good idea of the words, If you have a knack for Languages you should be able to pick it up that way. A True Torah book might not be the best way to learn as many are intricate and complicated and you might need to know much more backround to really get it without being bored.

    Be advised that many secular Yiddishists tried to change the Yiddish alphabet from Hebraic to Latin. So you might want to take some Hebrew courses to learn the proper Hebrew Alphabet and then get the yiddish sounding equivilant (It is similar although not exact)

    #894809

    nishtdayngesheft
    Participant

    Aurora,

    If you want to learn Yiddish, with the focus on the “Yid” in it, you would be well advised to avoid YIVO and yiddish culturalists. They have done everything they could to remove yiddishkeit from yiddish culture. And this is not new.

    #894810

    shein
    Member

    Definitely avoid those anti-religious anti-Judaism YIVO and their ilk and those forbidden movies. They will not only not teach you Yiddish, but rather they will indoctrinate you with their anti-religious ideals. And what they teach is a dead dialect that no real people even use in real conversations, as opposed to the living Yiddish lived by hundreds of thousands of real, living, Torah Jews throughout the world (North America, South America, Europe and of course Israel.)

    The only way to learn Yiddish, is to live it. Live it with those living Yiddish, not those dying anti-religious breeds. Definitely spend time in a frum Jewish neighborhood where Yiddish is the first or second language of the frum Jews. And read Torah true Yiddish books. Frum Yiddish books written for children can be very helpful in learning the language. And send your children (when you have) to Yiddish speaking Yeshivos and Beis Yaakovs.

    #894811

    farrockgrandma
    Participant

    The Yiddish I heard growing up could be called ‘kitchen table’ Yiddish. My parents spoke Yiddish to each other late at night when they did not want us to understand them. For basic conversational yiddish, it may be more fun to look up the old yiddish films with english subtitles, many online and free. There are yiddish classes for beginners in some of the large cities. Bu I agree with the other posters, learning Hebrew should be a priority.

    #894813

    iced
    Member

    Yiddish is definitely a lot more important, than modern-day Ivrit, for a religious Jew.

    #894814

    akuperma
    Participant

    The “lingua franca” of Jews has always been Hebrew. Yiddish was always for popular literature such as novels, lashon hora, or books for people lacking the skills to read serious Jewish literature which was and is in Hebrew. Even during Yiddish’s “golden age” in the late 19th and early 20th century, most serious Jewish books were written in Hebrew. Remember that the period in which Yiddish-speakers were a majority of Jews lasted a relatively short time (perhaps from the 17th century until the 1940s) – okay, that’s a short time by Jewish standards.

    However Yiddish as a living language is an important aspect of the Ashkenazi Hareidi community, but there are very few tools for learning it other than to pick up some children’s books and hang out in neighborhoods where the kids are talking Yiddish to each other. We could probably use some frum materials for learning Yiddish, since the secular (YIVO-style) materials reflect the long dead dialect of the secular Yiddishists (learning it can be useful, however I wouldn’t want to learn Shakespearean English if my goal was to read and speak to modern day Americans).

    #894815

    RebRY
    Member

    Hi Aurora, I did not know that you are a woman. I think now that it is more important that you learn Yiddish because women don’t really need too much Hebrew except the basics like prayer and blessings. Like some of the other people here said that the best way to learn Yiddish is in a religious community that speaks Yiddish like Boro Park, Williamsburg or Monroe but unless you want a really chasidic neighborhood you may or may not like it but all the people are very nice and wood be very welcoming.

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